2015 GMC Yukon Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D SLT 2WD

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2015 GMC Yukon
G.R. Whale

Introduction

The GMC Yukon is all-new for 2015. What hasn’t been obviously restyled or re-thought has been re-programmed, re-calibrated or re-engineered. The biggest news for the 2015 Yukon is more power and better fuel efficiency, third-row seats that fold to a flat floor, electronics that provide Siri eyes-free, text alerts, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a tailored new cabin that’s very quiet.

New safety systems feature prominently in the 2015 Yukon overhaul as well. A rearview camera and proximity sensors front and rear are standard on the 2015 Yukon, as is a center front-row airbag that works as a divider cushion in side-impact collisions. A head-up display, forward-collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warnings are available on 2015 Yukon models.

The GMC Yukon is a full-size sport utility with room for five adults and up to nine passengers total. Yukon is built like a truck to handle rough use. It offers enough towing capacity to handle a four-ton trailer and has the versatility for cargo hauling.

Yukon’s interior layout looks more luxury sedan than any other GMC product. Although it offers a front bench seat, most models have a pair of front bucket seats flanking a center console that arcs up to the dash in well integrated fashion. Middle-row seats are individual bucket or three-across bench. The third row is a 60/40-split arrangement good for children.

Yukon runs a 355-hp 5.3-liter V8 and 6-speed automatic transmission with EPA ratings of 16/23 mpg City/Highway. Automatic four-wheel drive is available, as is a similar system with low-range gearing for off-highway work that can be towed behind your motorhome.

Denali is the top luxury model, powered by a 420-hp 6.2-liter V8 and 8-speed automatic, with EPA numbers of 15/21 mpg. The Denali 4WD system includes low-range. Yukon Denali has a unique instrument display and trim inside and out and adds features such as wireless phone charging, hands-free tailgate and a more sophisticated suspension.

Towing capacity is 8100-8500 pounds depending on model. Every towing aid available on the Sierra pickup, except trailering mirrors, is offered on Yukon. Most Yukon models will carry 1500-1650 pounds of personnel and baggage.

Yukon rolls down the road with nary a care, we found it stable, quiet and confidence-inspiring in challenging conditions. It can cart kids to practice, co-workers to lunch or boat to the lake with equal ease. If you require the ultimate in luxury, expect the price to almost double for a loaded Denali.

GMC Yukon competition includes the less-advanced but roomier Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada, Dodge Durango, as well as the related Chevrolet Tahoe. Yukon Denali competes with the Lincoln Navigator, Range Rover Sport, Infiniti QX80, Mercedes-Benz GL and Lexus GX.

If you do not need low-range 4WD or rugged truck construction, and have only a small lightweight trailer, a big crossover, such as the GMC Acadia, BMW X5 or Audi Q7 might be a better fit. If cargo volume and people space are paramount and ultimate luxury isn’t, a minivan will provide far greater third-row room, more cargo volume than the long XL version of Yukon, similar payload and better fuel economy in a smaller outside package.

On the other hand, if bigger is better, the Yukon XL bumps rear seat and aft cargo space considerably, is nearly as maneuverable, much easier entry/egress at the rear doors, at a premium of one EPA mile-per-gallon and $3,000. Skip a moonroof and rear-seat entertainment and you’re there.

Model Lineup

The 2015 Yukon comes with a 355-hp 5.3-liter V8, 6-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. Autotrac all-wheel drive adds $3000; four-wheel drive with low-range is part of a $650 HD trailering package.

Yukon SLE ($46,990) comes with cloth upholstery, three-zone climate control, front bucket seats, 60/40 folding second/third row bench seats, leather wrapped tilt steering wheel, locking differential, Class IV tow hitch and 7-pin plug, 18-inch alloy wheels (full-size 17-inch spare), side steps, fog lamps, heated power mirrors, remote entry and start, rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, front/rear park sensors, Bose AM/FM/XM/CD/HD Radio with Pandora, Bluetooth, IntelliLink, and OnStar with 4G LTE, five USB ports, aux inputs, 4.2-inch color driver display, 110VAC outlet (150 watts) and 2-year/24,000-mile scheduled maintenance plan. SLE options include a driver alert package ($445); HD trailering package with integrated trailer brake controller, 2-speed transfer case, rear air suspension leveling and 3.42:1 axle ratio, $650), six types of 20 or 22-inch wheels; Convenience Package ($730) with power-adjust pedals and liftgate, universal remote, auto-dim inside mirror; cargo cover; 40/20/40 bench front seat ($250 delete); block heater and recovery hooks.

Yukon SLT ($55,475) upgrades with leather upholstery, heated and cooled front bucket seats, heated 60/40 second-row seats with power release, power-folding third-row seats, pushbutton start and entry, driver alert pack, convenience pack, power-folding mirrors, heated power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, driver memory, wireless charging for compatible device, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning. Optional on SLT are an enhanced security package ($395) that deletes overhead sunglasses holder and conversation mirror; moonroof ($995); 20- or 22-inch wheels; adaptive cruise control with collision mitigation braking ($995); navigation ($495); heated second-row bucket seats ($590); rear Blu-ray entertainment ($1595); Open Road package ($3255) with navigation, rear Blu-ray entertainment, moonroof, and an additional nine months’ SiriursXM radio and NavTraffic.

Yukon Denali ($63,770) and Denali 4WD ($66,770) use a 420-hp 6.2-liter V8, 8-speed automatic, and the 4WD is Autotrac with low-range. Denali adds or improves on SLT with unique exterior and interior trim, active noise cancellation, magnetic ride control, rear air leveling suspension, 8-inch customizable instrument display, trailer brake controller, hands-free power liftgate, HID headlamps and 10-speaker Bose Centerpoint sound system. Available on Denali are a head-up display, recovery hooks, block heater, 22-inch wheels, power-retracting side steps, enhanced security package, moonroof, and adaptive cruise control with auto-braking.

Safety features that come standard on all models include dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags for the front row, a between-seat center front airbag on bucket-seat models, three-row side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control system, OnStar, LATCH child safety seat anchors, tire pressure monitors, rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers and front/rear park sensors. Blind-spot, lane deaprture and cross-traffic warnings are available where not standard, and SLT and Denali offer adaptive cruise control with automatic braking.

Walkaround

Yukon’s classic utility two-box body is clean, crisp and never mistaken for a jelly-bean crossover. Geometric lines work well on so many levels for vehicles designed to carry cargo or venture beyond paved roadways, and GMC makes it work well enough to take it where you might also take a limousine.

Painted surfaces surround GMC’s triple-bar grille and massive red logo; lighting modules are completely separated and fair into the fender tops. Both the lower lip and bumper run full width, with fog lights low and outboard where they work best. The deep air dam helps highway fuel economy but consider removing it before you hit the backcountry. Denali models are distinguished by amply chromed mesh grille work and, when on, their HID headlamps.

Strong horizontal lines define the profile, with wheel openings only minimally less square than GMC’s Sierra pickup. Wheels better fill those openings; though we prefer the standard 18-inch wheel for ride quality and think they fit the truck’s proportions better, 20- and 22-inch wheels in multiple finishes are offered. Denali comes with 20-inch wheels.

Dark door and rear pillars give the roof a cantilevered look, anchored at the windshield and balancing on the wide painted pillar above the rear wheels. Side steps are no wider than the bodywork so they’re less vulnerable, and power-retracting steps are available. Short rear overhang is helpful for off-road travel and towing stability, but in some views the tail appears stubby or truncated.

Deep window tint wraps rear side and tailgate windows into one piece and the wiper’s hidden under the gate-top spoiler. C-shaped taillights echo the ruby-red logo letters and the center brake light in the spoiler never casts light in the rear view. The covered receiver hitch keeps it clean and the top of the bumper has scuff protection.

The liftgate is manually operated on SLE, with the SLT’s power liftgate available; opening height is programmable for vertical clearance limitations or to open just high enough for you to walk beneath. On Denali you can wave a foot beneath the bumper (as long as the key is with you) to open or close the tailgate with your hands full.

Interior

The GMC Yukon interior is more upscale than ever, and there’s no base model more suitable for civil service fleets than family garages. Materials, be they leather on the steering wheel or hard plastic on the lower doors, are all a step up from pre-2015 Yukons. And we found the fit and finish left nothing to be desired.

No longer shared with Sierra pickups, the Yukon dash is set up more like a touring sedan than like a truck. The center section sweeps aft downward in a seamless transition to the console, the soft-touch dash top appears laid on, and the outer vent grille pattern runs along the passenger’s side.

Most of the controls, instruments and displays are similar to other GMC full-size models. To driver’s left are drive mode, lighting, trailer brake, adjustable pedals and some safety system switches, and whether you have the standard tilt or uplevel tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, some of those switches will be obscured by it. Switchgear is illuminated red at night.

Excellent gauges are standard, and the Denali gets a configurable 8-inch display amidst them. Top center is the audio and GMC IntelliLink infotainment screen with hidden storage behind. Knobs and hard keys below and touch-screen icons at top help speed you to common tasks. Alongside the usual apps and features (Pandora, Bluetooth, weather, traffic) it has text message alerts, Siri eyes free and OnStar with 4G LTE wi-fi hotspot and a 3gb/3month trial period. It did what we wanted and was faster than some, slower than others. The display never washed out in bright sunlight.

Below that are better-than-average rear climate controls, and front seat heat/cooling switches; these switch indicators do occasionally disappear in daylight. Cabin storage includes a usable glovebox, multiple door cubbies, third-row bin, five distinct places on the console, and the center armrest lid depression offers compatible-device wireless charging on Denali.

Everything forward of the middle armrest is set slightly to the passenger’s side side, making an easier reach for them and more right knee room for the driver. But we can’t imagine anyone fleeing the least bit cramped with all the room up front.

Bucket seats come standard for the front row and we found them comfortable for long or short hauls. Cloth seats now offer seat heating, as do the leather seats. Seat coolers are also available. You have to nit-pick to find anything wrong with the seats, and that would be cooling unit you can hear because the truck is so quiet inside. A center front airbag keeps front occupants cushioned apart in severe side-impact collisions.

A front bench seat, divided 40/20/40, is available, though this credit-delete option is so rare we’ve never seen one and GMC has no pictures of it. You could get an idea looking at a special services/police Tahoe which has computers and radio where the middle seat would be. The bench seat comes with a different dash, which stops at the climate controls and moves power and input ports low and forward underneath.

Second-row seats offer a choice of two buckets or a 60/40-split three-person bench, the latter far more practical and not significantly less comfortable. Buckets do give the choice of clambering around for third-row access but the second-row bench moves easily. Regardless of seat, big outboard pillars keep heads nicely shaded, and the climate controls and inputs/ports are an easy reach.

Third-row seats are split 60/40 as well, so you could still carry six people and long items like skis or wakeboards inside. Outer headrests extend well but there is no center headrest, and the center shoulder belt is conveniently out of sight in the roof when not needed. Head and hiproom are typical but legroom here is limited, nearly 13 inches less than an Expedition or Navigator, and best for kids.

Cargo access is by large liftgate, powered on some and operable with a foot wave under the rear bumper on Denali. The load floor is two levels up from the bumper and close to a yard off the ground, inconvenient for big heavy items. Power-fold and release rear seat (both rows) switches are on the side.

Cargo space behind the third row is 15.3 cubic feet. Under the floor is a well for small items. Behind the second row is 51.7 cubic feet, and 94.7 behind the first row, on a flat but not level floor. Cargo capacity is down about 10% from the previous Yukon and trails the level-floor Expedition (18.6/55.0/108.3) Sequoia (18.9/66.6/120.1) and Armada (20.0/56.7/97.1).

Driving Impressions

The Yukon is pleasant to drive, with a quiet interior and suspension that isolate you from most outside world annoyances. It’s as easy to drive as any car, only bigger.

Either engine delivers plenty of power smoothly, with minimal fuss, but both develop peak power at more than 4000 rpm and are tuned to eke out fuel efficiency. Since they cruise at less than half that speed, it takes a solid shove of the gas pedal to effect the downshifts needed for strong acceleration.

Yukon’s 6-speed automatic sorts out gears well. It has a manual shift function managed by a rocker switch on the column shift lever that rev-matches downshifts, but unlike most competitors you must first move the lever to M to use the rocker.

Denali’s 8-speed has quicker, smoother shifts and changes aren’t as noticeable because engine speed doesn’t change as much. The added gears also allow easier engine braking on long grades.

Both Yukon and Denali cruise along the highway effortlessly, but unless that is all you do, we’d strongly consider the towing package for its better performance. In any event you’ll be able to cruise at west Texas speeds with less than 2000 rpm showing.

Rack-and-pinion steering is now electric assist and feels as good as the predecessor’s hydraulic assist system. Assist remains consistent during heavy maneuvering as in backing a small trailer or navigating mall parking on black Friday. Despite its size the Yukon turns commendably tight, better than many smaller sedans.

Handling is secure and stable, ride comfort better on the 18-inch wheels. Denali’s magnetic ride control uses special shock absorbers that continuously adjust in milliseconds so you get needed control with no unnecessary firmness you don’t. On smooth roads you won’t notice as much because it makes the Denali’s 20-inch wheels ride almost as well as Yukon’s 18s, but on washboard surfaces or towing the MRC system proves itself.

Many versions have or offer air-leveling rear suspension so it stays level and headlights aimed properly with weight on board, but this not a substitute for a weight-distributing trailer hitch when called for.

Except under heavy throttle most noise inside comes from behind from the exhaust pipe and rear tires. It isn’t intrusive at all, only highlights how well the engine compartment is insulated and the aerodynamics work around the windshield.

Outward visibility is about par. Forward and rearward are quite good thanks to not-to-thick windshield pillars and angular bodywork. Side pillars are substantial, the mirrors are no good for towing anything tall and wide (like an express cruiser or RV) and the tapered rear flanks beyond the back door pillar aren’t visible in the mirrors. Fortunately, a rearview camera and proximity sensors at both ends are standard.

Denali’s optional head-up display projects speed, engine revs, signals, warnings, navigation instructions and so forth on the windshield ahead of the driver; the local speed limit (subject to mapping accuracy) appears in the instrument panel. Even at full-bright it was often illegible on sunny days with sunglasses on, a situation not unique to Denali.

The available brake controller for trailers with electric brakes is very effective. Even if we didn’t have a trailer with electric brakes we’d consider it for resale value and those friends’ electric-brake or future trailers.

Maximum tow ratings for the Yukon range from 8100 to 8500 pounds, behind Ford Expedition’s 9200 and Nissan Armada’s 8200-9000, but ahead of Toyota’s Sequoia and Dodge’s Durango. To find any particular truck’s towing capacity you need to subtract the door-jamb GVWR (maximum weight of truck, occupants, cargo and trailer tongue weight) from GCWR (gross combined weight rating). Very few sport-utility vehicles can carry full payload and tow maximum trailer weight at the same time.

Yukon 4WD models use a single-speed Autotrac system for automatic operation on highway. If you want 4WD with low-range gearing, as you might for backcountry access or even slippery boat ramps (or to tow the Yukon behind a motorhome), you have to get the HD tow package two-speed transfer case. Denali 4WD comes with it.

Summary

The GMC Yukon has a quiet, comfortable interior nice enough for a car, in a truck chassis that can cope with the worst roads and drivers. It combines plenty of smooth power and good towing capability with modern electronics and safety systems to make a squarely styled very well rounded full-size SUV.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report after test drives in Yukon models in Los Angeles and San Antonio.

Model as tested
GMC Yukon Denali 4WD ($66,770)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Arlington, Texas
Destination charge
1195
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
41,760
Price as tested
76,720
Options as tested
22-inch wheels ($2995), white diamond paint ($995), Premium pack ($3165), enhanced security package ($395), moonroof ($995), roof rails ($210)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
GMC Yukon SLE 2WD ($46,990), AWD ($49,990); Yukon SLT 2WD ($55,475), AWD ($58,475); Yukon Denali 2WD ($63,770), 4WD ($66,770)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage front airbags, front side-impact airbags, a between-seat center front airbag on bucket-seat models, three-row side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control system, OnStar, LATCH child safety seat anchors, tire pressure monitors, rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers and front/rear park sensors
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
6.2-liter V8
Transmissions
8-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, heated and cooled front bucket seats, heated 60/40 second-row seats with power release, power-folding third-row seats, pushbutton start and entry, driver alert pack, convenience pack, power-folding mirrors, heated power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, driver memory, wireless charging for compatible device, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, active noise cancellation, 20-inch wheels, magnetic ride control, rear air leveling suspension, 8-inch customizable instrument display, trailer brake controller, hands-free power liftgate, HID headlamps, navigation, AM/FM/CD/HD/SiriusXM/Pandora Bose 10-speaker Centerpoint audio system, Bluetooth, IntelliLink and OnStar with 4G LTE, 5xUSB and aux inputs, 110VAC outlet (150-w) and 2-year/24,000-mile scheduled maintenance plan

Engine & Transmission
Engine
6.2-liter V8
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
420 @ 5600
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
14/21
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/vented disc with ABS
Suspension, front
independent, coil springs, antiroll bar, MRC shocks
Tires
P285/45R22
Suspension, rear
solid axle, five-link, coil springs, antiroll bar, MRC shocks

Accomodations
Seating capacity
7
Head/hip/leg room, middle
38.7/60.3/39.0
Head/hip/leg room, front
42.8/60.8/45.3
Head/hip/leg room, rear
38.1/49.3/24.8

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
94.7
Wheelbase
116.0
Length/width/height
203.9/80.5/74.4
Turning circle
39.0
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
8100
Track, front/rear
68.7/68.7
Ground clearance
8.0
Curb weight
5784


J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality 3 / 5
Overall Quality - Mechanical
3 / 5
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
2 / 5
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
3 / 5
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
3 / 5
Overall Quality - Design
4 / 5
Powertrain Quality - Design
2 / 5
Body & Interior Quality - Design
3 / 5
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
5 / 5

Overall Dependability 2 / 5
Powertrain Dependability
2 / 5
Body & Interior Dependability
3 / 5
Feature & Accessory Dependability
4 / 5

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

* The J.D. Power Ratings are calculated based on the range between the car manufacturer or car model with the highest score and the car manufacturer or car model with the lowest score. J.D. Power generates a rating of a five, four, three, or two. If there is insufficient data to calculate a rating, “Not Available” is used in its place.

J.D. Power Ratings may not include all information used to determine J.D. Power awards, visit the Car Ratings page to learn more about awards and ratings.